What shapes my ministry?

Paul Tripp’s new book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, is now available here.

There’s an extract from the book here, which includes the list below  of 29 heart issues that shape a pastor’s ministry as much as if not more than knowledge, experience and gifting.

Read the list carefully, it should not only be helpful to pastors but also to people who are committed to praying for their pastor.

  • What does he really love?
  • What does he despise?
  • What are his hopes, dreams, and fears?
  • What are the deep desires that fuel and shape the way he does ministry?
  • What are the anxieties that have the potential to derail or paralyze him?
  • How accurate is his view of himself?
  • Is he open to the confrontation, critique, and encouragement of others?
  • Is he committed to his own sanctification?
  • Is he open about his own temptations, weaknesses, and failures?
  • Is he ready to listen to and defer to the wisdom of others?
  • Does he see pastoral ministry as a community project?
  • Does he have a tender, nurturing heart?
  • Is he warm and hospitable, a shepherd and champion to those who are suffering?
  • What character qualities would his wife and children use to describe him?
  • Does he sit under his own preaching?
  • Is his heart broken and his conscience regularly grieved as he looks at himself in the mirror of the Word?
  • How robust, consistent, joyful, and vibrant is his devotional life?
  • Does his ministry to others flow out of the vibrancy of his devotional communion with the Lord?
  • Does he hold himself to high standards, or is he willing to give way to mediocrity?
  • Is he sensitive to the experiences and needs of those who ministry alongside of him?
  • Is he one who incarnates the love and grace of the Redeemer?
  • Does he overlook minor offenses?
  • Is he ready and willing to forgive?
  • Is he critical and judgmental?
  • Is the public pastor a different person from the private husband and dad?
  • Does he take care of his physical self?
  • Does he numb himself with too much social media or television?
  • If he said, “If only I had [                      ],” what would fill in the blank?
  • How successful has he been in pastoring the congregation that is his family?

Preaching Matters

A great new resource from St. Helen’s Bishopsgate, to help equip and encourage those who teach God’s word.  Click on the video below to view the introduction to the series by William Taylor, or click here to visit the Preaching Matters home page.

Preachers and their critics

There’s a helpful blog post here by Brian Hedges on preaching and criticism that should be profitable to both hearers and preachers.

For Hearers

Be careful. It’s dangerous to sit under the ministry of God’s Word with a critical ear. If you don’t watch your heart, you will impoverish your soul. Look for defects in the sermon and you’ll always find them. But don’t develop a critic’s mindset. Instead, come to worship with eyes peeled and ears perked for the Word of the living God.

For Preachers

Take your critics seriously. Almost every criticism contains a germ of truth. Your job is to find it. Maybe you weren’t clear enough. Perhaps the sermon really was too long, or had too much content, or was over people’s heads. Spurgeon once reminded his students that the Lord commissioned Peter to feed his sheep, not giraffes. Whatever the critique, give it some thought. You will learn something.

Aiming for awe

What are the goals for our ministries?  To build bridges, to get people in, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, to teach to living Word of God, to encourage the fellowship that already exists in Christ, to bring disciples to maturity.   Over here Paul Tripp reminds us that whatever other goals our various ministries have, we are to aim for nothing less than awe filled worshippers of the living God.  Tripp concludes:

a church must turn people back to the one thing for which they were created: to live in a sturdy, joyful, faithful awe of God.

This means every sermon should be prepared by a person whose study is marked by awe of God. The sermon must be delivered in awe and have as its purpose to motivate awe in those who hear. Children’s ministry must have as its goal to ignite in young children a life-shaping awe of God. The youth ministry of the church must move beyond Bible entertainment and do all it can to help teens see God’s glory and name it as the thing for which they will live. Women’s ministry must do more than give women a place to fellowship with one another and do crafts. Women need to be rescued from themselves and myriad self-interests that nip at their hearts; awe of God provides that rescue. Men’s ministries need to recognize the coldness in the heart of so many men to the things of God and confront and stimulate men with their identity as those created to live and lead out of a humble zeal for God’s glory, rather than their own. Missions and evangelism, too, must be awe-driven.

Objectives of men’s ministries

Earlier this week I pointed to the series of blog posts on gospel centred men’s ministries that the Good Book Company are currently running.

Today they list and explain five steps to take for initiating successful gospel shaped men’s ministries within the church.  Clearly a lot of these are transferable to any ministry.

  1. Church leaders need to own the vision
  2. Appoint a key man as leader
  3. Some structure must exist
  4. Make sure that those involved share the objectives
  5. The whole church must recognise the importance of men’s ministry

They then list the generic objectives that should underly any men’s ministry. None of this is rocket science but its always helpful to have these things in view.

  1. Encouraging and developing the knowledge of God and His Word in ways that foster Christian discipleship.
  2. Encouraging and equipping men to fulfil their roles as men in relationships with others.
  3. Encouraging and equipping men to share their faith and the gospel to bring others to Christ.

Trellis and the Vine podcasts

Col Marshall and Tony Payne have produced a series of podcasts over here discussing the themes and principles covered in their book, The Trellis and the Vine.

And below is the list of key principles from chapter 2 of the book, that need to be considered in ensuring our ministry is focused on the vine rather than the trellis.

Ministry mind-shifts

1. From running programs to building people

2. From running events to training people

3. From using people to growing people

4. From filling gaps to training new workers

5. From solving problems to helping people make progress

6. From clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership

7. From focusing on church polity to forging ministry partnerships

8. From relying on training institutions to establishing local training

9. From focusing on immediate pressures to aiming for long-term expansion

10. From engaging in management to engaging in ministry

11. From seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth

Success is not God’s seal of approval

More Monday morning wisdom from Paul Tripp here directed to pastors in ministry but applicable to all Christians.  In particular Tripp writes from experience on his wrong understanding that success in his ministry had to be taken as a sign that God was happy with the way he was living his life.

It’s easy to fall into the temptation of assuming that observable blessings – growth in numbers, commitment, desire for the souls of the lost, must be God’s seal of approval on the way I’m living my life.  In reality we need to continually cry out to God

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!Psalm 139:23-24

Tripp writes of his own experience,

I confused ministry success with God’s endorsement of my living. Pastoral ministry was exciting in many ways. The church was growing numerically, and people seemed to be growing spiritually. More and more people seemed to be committed to be part of a vibrant spiritual community, and we saw people win battles of the heart by God’s grace. We founded a Christian school that was growing and expanding its reputation and influence. We were beginning to identify and disciple leaders.

It wasn’t all rosy; there were painful and burdensome moments, but I started out my days with a deep sense of privilege that God had called me to do this ministry. I was leading a community of faith, and God was blessing our efforts. But I held these blessings in the wrong way. Without knowing that I was doing it, I took God’s faithfulness to me, to his people, to the work of his kingdom, to his plan of redemption, and to his church as an endorsement of me. My perspective said, “I’m one of the good guys, and God is behind me all the way.” In fact, I would say to Luella (this is embarrassing but important to admit), “If I’m such a bad guy, why is God blessing everything I put my hands to?”

God did not act because he endorsed my manner of living, but because of his zeal for his own glory and his faithfulness to his promises of grace for his people.